Out of touch.
It’s the most devastating insult one can use on a politician these days — and a far cry from the days when people wanted their rulers to be drawn from society’s elite.
Now politicians are supposed to be just like you and me. Or perhaps just like me. Or at least, not like them.
We demand rolled up sleeves and boots (a look the Nationals have perfected for years) and straight-talking, no nonsense, cut-to-the-heart-of-the-problem speakers. Don’t white paper it, tweet it. If the answer can’t be said in a soundbite, it’s probably not worth having.
For sitting politicians this poses a problem, unless you have the advantage of a vast rural seat as a credibility backdrop. How can you show in a tweet or a Facebook post that you are just like the people you claim to serve?
Cue the Man Of The People photoshoot (or Woman of the People as the case may be.) If you can add in An Approach To The Youth that’s even better.
That’s why, for example, we have the surprising case of the Premier Colin Barnett smack-talking his Treasurer over his basketball skills on Twitter.
— Colin Barnett (@ColinBarnett) February 24, 2017
“That moment when,” Premier? “Taking him to school”?
The Premier’s office is pretty upfront about the fact he doesn’t run his own Twitter account (disclosing in his Twitter bio that tweets by him will be marked “cjb”) but still: millennial much?
This jovial style of campaigning also works best when you can demonstrate through banter just how normal you are. Exhibit A:
Photos are a good way to bridge the gaps between policy announcements and also help convey one is Just A Normal Person.
Hence, a topless Terry Redman:
— Terry Redman (@TerryRedmanMLA) February 19, 2017
Labor’s Michelle Roberts making mileage out of Bogan Bingo (with mandatory banter from colleague Margaret Quirk):
And Mr Barnett again: this time in a political pose on the beach with Rottnest swimmers. Unfortunately, they were politically posing as well and someone neglected to read their arms.
— Meredith Hammat (@meredithhammat) February 25, 2017
The attempt to look like an ordinary Joe is understandable but it can easily backfire. Remember when Tony Abbott ate a raw onion or when UK Prime Minister David Cameron used a knife and fork on a hotdog, or when a self-proclaimed billionaire got his KFC delivered to his gilded plane?
Great afternoon in Ohio & a great evening in Pennsylvania – departing now. See you tomorrow Virginia! pic.twitter.com/jQTQYBFpdb
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2016
But in the visually sensitive age in which we live, it is just another hoop through which our politicians need to jump. Let’s just be glad that WA pollies are not dabbing. Or, at least, not yet.